We’ve loved this place since 2003. We’ve renovated, decorated, cultivated and planted – boy have we planted! We’ve made what people describe as a ‘magical place’ ‘a place of peace and tranquility’. This is one of the good things about Trip Advisor – people say such nice things (mostly).
It’s been hard work at times but for the past few years we’ve been able to enjoy the fruits of our labours as well as those of the garden. With nearly nine acres of garden, woodland and meadow bordered by a gentle brook and two pretty and popular self-catering cottages we’ve been able to share this quirky, characterful historic nice little place with hundreds of people now and it is nice to make a living by essentially creating happiness.
Sharing a little piece of long lost old England with stressed executives, exhausted parents and romantic couples – watching them relax over the course of a weekend or longer is actually a very rewarding occupation. So what’s it really like running holiday accommodation in your home?
In truth we are the scaley legs and webbed feet working away under the plain sailing serenity of the Brook Farm Swan. But with the help of local girls with the cleaning and the support of local suppliers and neighbours we’ve been blessed and things run smoothly - most of the time. And when they don’t – a broken tap, a wasps’ nest, disappearing WiFi – guests are always very understanding. I think this is partly down to the whole place setting its own scene. It’s not the Ritz – it’s not a hotel with hot and cold running staff – it’s just what it is and people seem to like the relaxed unpretentious surroundings. It’s shabby chic, it’s pretty, it’s Country Living magazine (not Country Life magazine) – it’s rustic and not particularly elegant. As soon as you arrive you know it’s not the sort of place where you have to leave your shoes at the door. The garden is wild and romantic and people instinctively know they can flop wherever they want for as long as they want. There is enough space for everyone to get a little lost if they want to for a while – a real escape from the every day.
Of course behind this laid-back ambience we’ve had to get a lot of things right. Apart from the layout and décor you’ve got to then get the hospitality right. There has to be a genuinely warm welcome, an attitude of nothing being too much trouble, always being available to help but not invading privacy. Some people like to talk, some don’t. You’ve got to be able to read people and be what they need you to be. Sometimes this means being several different people over the course of a weekend as different guests staying at the same time might want different things from you.
There is no point running a hospitality business if you can’t be hospitable. Seems obvious but I think we’ve probably all been places where we’ve wondered why on earth they’re in the business if they can’t even manage a smile. With this sort of accommodation though, it is your home and people are willing to accept ‘Your Way’ of doing things so long as you do it with a smile and a warm heart, even when faced with a rare difficult guest: Getting a smile on Saturday morning from a grumpy Friday night arrival is a small but pleasing triumph. It’s my job to make sure people are happy and it feels good when I can see that they are.
We all know that more pleasure is gained from giving than receiving and doing this for a living has been very rewarding. Sharing this lovely old place with others is a win-win lifestyle – I get to work at home and in my garden, I get to give my time and hospitality to people who really enjoy it and then they pay me!
So what’s not to like? Why are we leaving? Well, this nice little place is almost perfect – but it’s not by the sea and I’ve always wanted to live by the sea. This year I am 50 and it’s time I headed to the coast. So, with mixed emotions, as they say, we’re selling up and moving on. In the property market these days you can’t be fussy about who you sell to, but I’m hoping there’s someone out there who will love this nice little piece of England as much as I have and will live a happy and fulfilling life here, caring for it in the way we have.
So if you fancy taking over this blog, this life, this nicelittleplace you know where you can find me……for now…….